Auction for Singapore's F&N begins

A rare auction for a listed Singaporean company opened on Monday with Thai and Indonesian tycoons facing off to take over diversified conglomerate Fraser and Neave (F&N).

The auction was called by a stock-market watchdog to resolve a protracted battle for F&N after it sold off its most prized asset, Tiger Beer maker Asia Pacific Breweries, to Dutch giant Heineken in September.

At stake are F&N's property, beverages and publishing operations.

A spokesman for the Securities Industry Council (SIC), which called for the auction, said the process officially opened on Monday after Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi made a fresh pre-auction bid over the weekend.

Charoen's TCC Assets said Saturday it was increasing its offer for F&N shares it does not own from Sg$8.88 ($7.24) a share to Sg$9.55.

The total Sg$13.75 billion offer trumped the Sg$13.1 billion, or Sg$9.08 per share, bid tabled by property firm Overseas Union Enterprise (OUE) in mid-November, but it was still lower than F&N's closing price last week.

The stock surged 1.25 percent, or 12 cents, to Sg$9.70 by 0130 GMT on Monday.

The revised bid leaves "the Thais in the driving seat this morning", IG Markets said in a report.

"The drawn-out sparring match for the prized asset of Fraser & Neave has reached the final round with the Thais delivering what could be the knockout punch," the report added.

OUE is controlled by Indonesia's Lippo Group, whose founder is Indonesian tycoon Mochtar Riady. His son Stephen is OUE's executive chairman.

Under the auction rules set by SIC, a daily bidding process will take place starting Monday until one party gives up.

F&N shareholders had reacted coolly to the original bids after an adviser gave a much higher valuation than those tabled by TCC Assets and OUE.

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